Orthodox-Catholic Consultation issues Statement With Prayer that Meeting of Pope and Ecumenical Patriarchate will Contribute to "Unity of Churches and Reconciliation of All Peoples"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

For Immediate Release CONTACT: Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos
November 1, 2006 Tel: (212) 570-3593

New York, NY -The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, meeting at Saint Paul’s College in Washington, DC, from October 26 to 28, 2006, has issued a statement on the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey. After reviewing briefly the history of previous meetings between Popes and Ecumenical Patriarchs, the statement concludes with a prayer “that the meeting of the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch will contribute to the unity of the churches and to the reconciliation of all peoples.”

In the statement, the members of the Consultation also expressed their concern about the restrictions that the Turkish government has placed on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ministry. These restrictions include limitations on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the non-recognition of the Patriarchate’s international role, the closing of the Theological School on the island of Halki in 1971, and the confiscation of churches and other property. The Consultation concludes that “the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in late November will highlight once again the crucial role played by the Ecumenical Patriarchate for many centuries not only among the Orthodox Churches but also in the broader Christian world.” The full text of the Statement is below.

At this 71st meeting of the Consultation, the members continued their in-depth study of primacies and conciliarity in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Professor John Barnet of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary presented a paper, “The Role of Peter in the New Testament.” Professor Brian Daley, SJ, of Notre Dame University, offered a study of the 34th Apostolic Canon, an ancient source often cited as offering insights on this question. Addressing contemporary issues, Rev. Chorbishop John D. Faris of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, delivered his study, “A Synergy of the One and the Many: Governance in the Eastern Catholic Patriarchal Churches.” Rev. Dr. Theodore Pulcini of Dickinson College gave a paper entitled “’Done Properly and in Order’ (I Cor. 14:40): An Examination of Orthodox Ecclesiology Through Its Application in Four Contemporary Situations.”

On the evening of Thursday October 26, the members discussed recent events in the lives of their churches, including the Ninth Plenary Session of the International Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue in Belgrade, the June 2006 meeting of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, the election of a new Archbishop of Cyprus, the visit of Cardinal Kasper to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, relations between the two Romanian Orthodox jurisdictions in North America, relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, the 2006 Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and the meeting of the Orthodox bishops of the USA in Chicago in October. The Consultation also devoted one session to a discussion of reactions to the lecture given by Pope Benedict XVI in Regensburg, Germany, on September 12, entitled “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections.”

The North American dialogue welcomed a new Catholic member, Rev. Paul McPartlan, the Carl J. Peter Professor of Systematic Theology and Ecumenism at the Catholic University of America in Washington. Fr. McPartlan is also a member of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, and informed the Consultation about its most recent meeting, which took place in Belgrade, Serbia, in September 2006. The participants also congratulated Fr Thomas FitzGerald for his appointment as Dean of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.

During the Washington meeting the Consultation members joined the Paulist priests, students and novices residing at St. Paul’s College for meals and worship. Archbishop Pilarczyk presided at Mass on Friday morning, with Consultation members participating to the extent allowed by their respective church disciplines.

The 72nd meeting of the Consultation has been scheduled to take place from June 4 to 6, 2007, at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is co-chaired by Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati. The other Orthodox members of the Consultation include Father Thomas FitzGerald (Secretary), Father Nicholas Apostola, Prof. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Father James Dutko, Prof. Paul Meyendorff, Father Alexander Golitzin, Dr. Robert Haddad, Father Paul Schnierla, Father Robert Stephanopoulos, Dr. John Barnet, Rev Dr Theodore Pulcini, and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, General Secretary of SCOBA (staff). The additional Catholic members are Father Brian Daley, SJ (Secretary), Prof. Thomas Bird, Father Peter Galadza, Rev. Chorbishop John D. Faris, Father John Galvin, Father Sidney Griffith, ST, Father Joseph Komonchak, Father Paul McPartlan, Father David Petras, Sr Susan K. Wood, SCL, Dr. Vito Nicastro, and Father Ronald Roberson, CSP (staff).

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is sponsored jointly by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since its establishment in 1965, the Consultation has issued 22 agreed statements on various topics. All these texts are now available on the website of the USCCB at http://www.usccb.org/seia/officialdialogues.shtml and on the SCOBA website at http://www.scoba.us/resources/index.asp.





Statement by the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
On the Upcoming Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation joyfully anticipates the coming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on November 29 and 30, 2006. This meeting will coincide with the celebration of the feast of Saint Andrew, the First-Called Apostle, the Patriarchate’s Patron Saint. It will take place in Istanbul, ancient Constantinople, a historic crossroads of peoples, cultures and religions.

The meeting of Pope Benedict and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will continue a tradition begun in 1964 when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem, and later in Rome and Istanbul. Since that time, meetings of Popes and Ecumenical Patriarchs have become more regular but no less significant.

These meetings have both expressed and deepened the renewed relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which has been developing since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the Pan-Orthodox Conferences (1961-1968). Since then, both churches have affirmed their desire to overcome historic differences through prayer, theological dialogue, and acts of reconciliation.

The meeting of Pope Benedict and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will occur following the recent meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church that took place in Belgrade from September 18 to 25, 2006. Our own North American Theological Consultation, begun in 1965, has now held its 71st meeting in Washington, DC, from October 26 to 28, 2006. Both consultations were established by the churches to examine the theological factors underlying our division and to recommend steps to heal it.

The Pope’s pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate provides us with an opportunity to express our concern regarding the situation in which the Patriarchate finds itself today. From the fourth century, the Church of Constantinople has exercised a significant ministry in the life of the Church, especially in the East. This ministry has continued to our day, despite drastic changes in the political, demographic and religious context. Today the Ecumenical Patriarchate serves the pastoral needs of Orthodox Christians within its jurisdiction in Turkey and a number of other countries. In addition, it provides a point of unity among the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and coordinates their common witness and service.

We are deeply concerned that the Ecumenical Patriarchate today is subject to severe restrictions placed upon it by the Turkish government. For example, by decisions reached in 1923 and 1970, the government imposed significant limitations on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Even today, the Turkish state does not recognize the historic role that the Patriarch plays among Orthodox Christians outside Turkey. The Turkish government closed the Patriarchate’s Theological School on the island of Halki in 1971 and, in spite of numerous appeals from governmental and religious authorities, still does not allow it to reopen, severely limiting the Patriarchate’s ability to train candidates for the ministry. In addition, the Patriarchate has recently suffered the confiscation of a number of its churches and other properties by the government.

We very much regret these restrictions placed on the ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate both within Turkey and abroad. At the same time, we commend those Turkish government leaders and citizens who advocate greater human rights and religious toleration within the country. The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in late November will highlight once again the crucial role played by the Ecumenical Patriarchate for many centuries not only among the Orthodox Churches but also in the broader Christian world.

Both Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have affirmed their desire to heal the division between our churches, and to contribute to healing the wounds of our societies. They have affirmed the need for Christians to be people of reconciliation and peace. They have called for mutual understanding among all faiths, and for the elimination of misunderstanding, prejudice and injustice wherever they may be found. We pray that the meeting of the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch will contribute to the unity of the churches and to the reconciliation of all peoples.

October 28, 2006
Saint Paul’s College
Washington, DC